•Says ample provision for elections
•Assents 2022 supplementary appropriation bill
•Urges N’Assembly to reconsider ways and means by CBN, as Lawan assures legislature will address bill
•Gbajabiamila says budget increase by legislative arm in public interest
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday signed the N21.83 trillion 2023 appropriation bill into law, marking the last time he would be performing such task as Nigeria’s president.
The president however deferred the signing of the Finance Bill, which is still being reviewed, especially over its conflicts with the fiscal term of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The proposed Finance Bill was said to have taken away all concessions given by the PIA. For instance, it disincentivises investments in the petroleum sector, leading to massive protest by the international oil companies (IOCs), especially in the area of gas flaring.
The annual financial plan, which contained robust provisions for the funding of this year’s general election, was passed by the National Assembly on December 28 last year. It was presented to a joint session of the federal legislature by Buhari on October 7.
The president had in the fiscal document proposed an annual budget of N20.51 trillion for 2023, showing a 19.8 per cent increase from the N17.13 trillion approved for 2022, including the supplementary budget.
Buhari, also yesterday, appended his signature to the 2022 supplementary appropriation bill during a ceremony at the Council Chambers at the State House, Abuja. The event was attended by President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, among other top government officials.
Buhari said adequate provisions had been made in the budget for the successful conduct of the forthcoming general election and the transition programme.
Speaking after the signing of the eighth and final annual budget of his government, the president said the aggregate expenditure of N21.83 trillion was an increase of N1.32 trillion over the initial executive proposal of a total expenditure of N20.51 trillion.
He explained that the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act would enable the administration to respond to the havoc caused by the recent nationwide floods, which took a heavy toll on infrastructure and agriculture.
As is customary, he said Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning would subsequently provide more details on the approved budget and the supporting 2022 Finance Act.
Furthermore, Buhari said his decision to sign the 2023 appropriation bill into law, as passed by the National Assembly, was to enable its implementation to commence without delay, considering the imminent transition process to another democratically elected government.
He, however, directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to engage the legislature to revisit some of the changes made to the executive budget proposal, expressing the hope that the National Assembly would cooperate with the executive in this regard.
Buhari stated, “We have examined the changes made by the National Assembly to the 2023 executive budget proposal.
“The amended fiscal framework for 2023, as approved by the National Assembly, shows additional revenues of N765.79 billion, and an unfunded deficit of N553.46 billion.
“It is clear that the National Assembly and the executive need to capture some of the proposed additional revenue sources in the fiscal framework. This must be rectified.
“I have also noted that the National Assembly introduced new projects into the 2023 budget proposal for which it has appropriated N770.72 billion. The National Assembly also increased the provisions made by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by N58.55 billion.”
He urged the National Assembly to reconsider its position on his proposal to securitise the federal government’s outstanding Ways and Means balance at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Buhari said, “As I stated, the balance has accumulated over several years and represents funding provided by the CBN as lender of last resort to the government to enable it to meet obligations to lenders, as well as cover budgetary shortfalls in projected revenues and/or borrowings.
“I have no intention to fetter the right of the National Assembly to interrogate the composition of this balance, which can still be done even after granting the requested approval.
“Failure to grant the securitisation approval will, however, cost the government about N1.8 trillion in additional interest in 2023 given the differential between the applicable interest rates, which is currently MPR plus three per cent and the negotiated interest rate of nine per cent and a 40-year repayment period on the securitised debt of the ways and means.”
Buhari thanked the National Assembly for approving his request for an extension of the validity date for implementation of the 2022 capital budget to March 31, 2023.
He directed the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work towards early release of the 2023 capital votes to enable MDAs commence the implementation of their capital projects in good time and support efforts to deliver key projects and public services as well as improve the living conditions of Nigerians.
Reiterating that the 2023 budget was developed to promote fiscal sustainability, macroeconomic stability, and smooth transition to the incoming administration, the president said it was also designed to ensure social inclusion and strengthen the resilience of the economy.
On achievement of the revenue targets of the budget, the president directed MDAs and government-owned enterprises (GOEs) to intensify their revenue mobilisation efforts, including ensuring that all taxable organisations and individuals pay their taxes.
To achieve the objectives of the 2023 budget, the president said relevant agencies must sustain current efforts towards the realisation of crude oil production and export targets.
He stated, “To augment available fiscal resources, MDAs are to accelerate the implementation of Public Private Partnership initiatives, especially those designed to fast-track the pace of our infrastructural development.
“This, being a deficit budget, the associated Borrowing Plan will be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly.
“I count on the cooperation of the National Assembly for a speedy consideration and approval of the Plan.”
On the Finance Bill 2022, the president expressed regret that its review, as passed by the National Assembly, was yet to be finalised.
“This is because some of the changes made by the National Assembly need to be reviewed by the relevant agencies of government. I urge that this should be done speedily to enable me to assent into law,” he said.
Buhari thanked the senate president, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and all leaders and members of the National Assembly for the expeditious consideration and passage of the Appropriation Bill.
He also recognised the roles played by the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Budget Office of the Federation; Senior Special Assistants to the President (Senate and House of Representatives); Office of the Chief of Staff, as well as all who worked tirelessly and sacrificed so much towards producing the 2023 Appropriation Act.
Buhari further stated, “As I mentioned during the presentation of the 2023 Appropriation Bill, early passage of the budget proposal is critical to ensure effective delivery of our legacy projects, a smooth transition programme and effective take-off of the incoming administration.
“I appreciate the firm commitment of the 9th National Assembly to the restoration of a predictable January to December fiscal year, as well as the mutual understanding, collaboration and engagements between officials of the executive and the legislative arms of government.
“These have made the quick consideration and passage of our fiscal bills possible over the last four years.”
The president expressed the belief that the next administration would sustain the practice of early presentation of the annual appropriation bills to the National Assembly to ensure their passage before the beginning of the fiscal year.
He said, “I firmly believe the next administration will also sustain the current public financial management reform efforts, further improve the budgeting process, and particularly maintain the tradition of supporting its appropriation bills with finance bills designed to facilitate their implementation.
“To sustain and institutionalise the gains of the reforms, we must expedite action and conclude work on the Organic Budget Law for it to become operational before the end of this administration.”
He acknowledged that “these are challenging times worldwide.”
The president expressed appreciation to God for His Grace, while commending the continuing resilience, understanding and sacrifice of Nigerians in the face of economic challenges.
He assured, “As this administration draws to a close, we will accelerate the implementation of critical measures aimed at further improving the Nigerian business environment, enhancing the welfare of our people and ensuring sustainable economic growth over the medium- to long-term.”
Speaking with newsmen after the ceremony, the senate president said he was hopeful that the implementation of the 2023 Appropriation Act would start in earnest as he claimed time was of the essence